More than any other holiday offer I’ve seen, there is one Walt Disney World offer which is highly debated and excitedly awaited; Free Dining. If you have been thinking of a Disney holiday and have done even a little bit of research, you may have heard of this Holy Grail of holiday offer; if you’ve been before you may even have taken advantage of it in past. However, each spring whether or not Free Dining for Walt Disney World guests will return as an offer to UK travellers is something which many families wait (and hope!) for.
For the past number of years, Walt Disney World has offered a huge early booking incentive to its UK guests. Released around April time for the incoming year (April 2015 for 2016 travel dates for example), Disney World offers a Free Dining Package to guests who book at least a 5-Night hotel and ticket package at one of the Walt Disney World Resorts. To ice this already 3-tier chocolate cake, you are also occasionally offered a 14-for-7 ticket deal, potentially money off some of the Disney Resorts, a free gift card (dollars to spend in Resort) or Free Memory Maker along with the Free Dining. Sounds almost too good to be true, which is why many from the UK & Ireland wait for the release of this offer to book their Disney trip; it can add a lot of extra value onto a holiday which is generally more expensive than a lot of others.
What is It?
Basically, if you book at least a 5-Night Hotel and Ticket Package (longer stays and larger packages, for example ones including flights are eligible) you will be entitled to a Free Dining Package for your entire party for the length of your stay. Based on last year’s offer, the deal tiered based on your Resort, as follows;
- Value Resort Guests – Free Breakfast
- Moderate Resort Guests – Free Quick Service Plan
- Deluxe & Deluxe Villa Guests – Free Disney Dining Plan
In 2015, for 2016 stays, this offer also included a 14 Night Ultimate ticket for the price of a 7 night ticket, a $200 Gift Card to spend in Disney and Free Memory Maker. The offer ran from the end of April right through until mid-July. The offer was then re-introduced at the end of July through October, with the gift card value reduced to $100.
Why is it so Popular?
Apart from the near-overwhelming amount of “Free” extras being thrown at you, if you plan to spend the majority of your time in Walt Disney World, having the luxury of your food cost already being taken care off adds huge value to your package. Whilst eating outside of Disney is cheaper, is it also less time-efficient, and while paying for a Dining Plan can be costly (£41.99 per adult per night for the Dining Plan!), taking advantage of a Free Plan could save you hundreds off the overall cost of your holiday. Whilst the Dining Plan doesn’t work out better for everyone, many families believe that the Free Dining Plan makes staying in a Walt Disney World Resort better value and more attainable for their trip. An article I wrote last year comparing the value of different Orlando holidays sums up well how much you could either save or gain in value by booking a Disney Package with a Free Dining Offer.
But it’s just Low Season, right?
The most exciting thing about Disney’s Free Dining offer over the past few years is that is has included school holidays, which is perfect for families who can no longer take their kids out of school during the term. There are always a few blacked-out dates, which generally tend to be Easter and Christmas, but families have been able to take full advantage for the offer for the summer holidays, or even a quick trip over Halloween.
Is it being offered for 2017?
As of the end of March 2016, NO FREE DINING FOR 2017 HAS BEEN OFFERED by Walt Disney World. However, this offer has typically been released at the end of April, so nobody who is waiting for the offer (me for example!) is particularly worried about its lack of appearance – yet. Every year there is a lot of discussion about wether or not Free Dining will make another appearance, with many citing Disney’s record crowds as reason to discontinue the offer; if people are going anyway, is an incentive to make them book really needed? However, each year Free Dining has been offered to guests from the UK & Ireland, despite many arguments put forward to suggest our luck with this offer had run out.
This year is the same; speculation on Free Dining is rife, but many are hopeful of its return. Given a similar “Free Dining” offer was extended to the US market in January, I personally am of the opinion the the UK will see the return of the Free Dining offer this year for 2017 holidays. I have a feeling that this year could see some changes to this offer (it has been fairly concrete for a number of years), and this years offer could also possibly be the last; although a sincerely hope not!
What if I’m considering a Disney Holiday?
If you have been looking into Walt Disney World recently, I would suggest continuing to do your research and planning but hold off from booking anything for another month. That way, if a Free Dining offer is released, you can price it and compare it to any other prices/offers you have been looking at to ensure whatever you book is working out best value for your family. There would be nothing worse than booking a trip now and discovering in 5 weeks time you have missed out on this incredible offer!
Similarly, if you aren’t one to plan far in advance, but feel that 2017 may be the year you and your family go to Walt Disney World, I would strongly consider starting to do a little research now to see how feasible an idea that is; if Free Dining is released next month, you will then be in a better position to start making that idea a reality with a little help from a great offer.
If a Walt Disney World Holiday is something you have in the back of your mind, possibly something to consider doing within the next few years, please remember that the Free Dining offer won’t be around forever (sob!), and this offer makes travelling to and staying in Disney such good value it would be a shame to miss out on it! We all may get very lucky and could see this same offer made for the next few years, but (as is said every year!), if it is offered for 2017, this year could see the last of Free Dining. If possible, try to take advantage of the offer if you can.
Can You Help?
As always, we are here to try and make your Walt Disney Holiday the best it can be, so of course we will help if we can! Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like emailed if a Free Dining Offer is released (always good to be on the ball!). We can also help you price your holiday, or simply answers any questions you may have to help you navigate the huge world of Disney!